The democratic process

Remembering to vote in the midterm elections

In advocating for many health care issues in the United States, we may often forget the first step of political advocacy – voting.

Of the 535 members of Congress, there are 17 physicians – four physicians in the Senate and 13 physicians in the House. This means that the physician voice is being represented by only 3% of Congress, and this is why physician advocacy is so important. There are myriad ways to be politically active, and even more health care issues to be passionate about.

In advocating for all of these issues through actions like sending letters to our representatives and speaking with those representatives during advocacy days, we may often forget the first step of political advocacy – voting.

Register to vote

Historically, physicians in the United States have voted at lower rates than the general population. A JAMA article from January 2022 notes that during the last few years, however, that gap has been closing. In 2018, physicians voted at almost the same rate as nonphysicians, and in 2020, physicians actually surpassed the general population.

Some suggest the reason for such an increase in voter participation was the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, how easy is it for Congress to establish policies that improve the health care climate if they’re not the experts in understanding it in the first place? As medical students and physicians, we can vote for representatives who have a vested interest in health care. 

To do that, however, we have to be registered to vote. If you’re not registered, you can check your voter registration status on the AOA Advocacy Action Center. The website also helps you to check voter registration deadlines and check your registration if you’re not sure if you’re registered.

There is no national voter registration deadline, but there are state and territory deadlines, so they are important to know. Many medical students and residents move to a different state for their education and training, so if you’re one of them and you want to vote in your new state, you can use the website to do that as well.

Do your research 

Not only is it important to vote, it’s important to vote responsibly. We might not have the most free time to research candidates on our own, but fortunately, we do have access to AOA resources. The Osteopathic Advocacy Network (OAN) allows you to read about federal and state health care priorities, and monthly Public Policy Roundtable Discussions allow you to discuss those priorities.

As medical students and physicians, we are better able to understand the implications of certain health care policies and candidates’ stances on those policies.

Stay engaged in the process

When we send letters to our representatives and speak with them during advocacy days, we’re advocating for ourselves and our patients. Being engaged in the advocacy process is critical to have the physician voice heard on Capitol Hill.

Our next opportunity to do so is during the midterm elections on Nov. 8, 2022. Historically, the president’s party tends to lose seats in the midterms. In 2014, Democrats lost 13 House seats, and in 2018, Republicans lost 40 House seats. In fact, the last four presidents have lost Senate and House majorities, and seven of those eight chambers were lost in midterm elections. No matter which direction we want the votes to go in, it is important that our vote is one of them. Learn more about the AOA’s current policy priorities here.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

Physician advocacy: Tips for communicating with legislators via phone, letters and face-to-face

Under the gun: The physician response to gun violence in America

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